Get the Most Out of Your Gas Tank
Though fuel prices saw a steady decline as summer wound down, for drivers the decline wasn't enough. With monthly fuel costs still higher than many people ever would have guessed they could be as recently as a decade ago, drivers are still looking for ways to trim fuel costs.
For some, escalating fuel costs have resulted in a lifestyle change, to one that's less reliant on automobiles and more so on bicycles and public transportation. For others, though, there aren't many options outside of their own car. For them, simply learning to drive more efficiently can provide significant relief from monthly fuel costs.
* Drive the speed limit. The more aggressively a car is driven, the more fuel is being wasted. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, rapid acceleration and braking and especially exceeding the speed limit are all ways to waste fuel. In the case of speeding, gas mileage decreases rapidly when a car travels above 60 miles per hour (mph). In general, for each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph, you're paying an extra $0.30 per gallon for gas. So simply obeying the speed limit is an effective way to stretch a tank of gas and reduce the amount of money you're spending on that gas each month.
* Empty your trunk. Another great way to increase fuel efficiency is to empty your vehicle's trunk. For many drivers, trunks have become mobile storage closets, with everything from golf bags to the kids' strollers to extra luggage constant fixtures in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in a trunk can reduce a vehicle's fuel efficiency by up to 2 percent. Obviously, this affects smaller cars more than bigger ones such as SUVs, but that extra and often unnecessary weight doesn't help fuel efficiency regardless of vehicle size.
* Utilize cruise control on long trips and use major highways. If you're going on long trips on highways with no stop lights, using cruise control will likely help fuel efficiency. That's because you won't be taxing the engine with acceleration and deceleration, which will save fuel in the long run. Also, when traveling great distances, avoid local roads and use major highways as much as possible. Local roads, while possibly more scenic and less stressful, do have more stoplights, which increase a vehicle's time spent idling. Idling only wastes gas, and in the case of larger vehicles, can waste a substantial amount of fuel.
* Keep your car in good shape. A car that is properly cared for will also be far more fuel-efficient that one that's neglected. For example, a clogged air filter is very detrimental to fuel efficiency because it makes the engine work harder and therefore wastes more fuel. Replacing a clogged air filter can increase gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
How well a vehicle's tires are inflated can also increase fuel efficiency. If drivers ignore their tires and don't keep them inflated at the proper pressure (the vehicle manual will list the suggested tire pressure), that can significantly reduce gas mileage.
For more information on increasing gas mileage and fuel efficiency, visit the Department of Energy Web site at www.energy.gov.